The fight for UK’s kerbside

Originally published by ITS International in January/February 2019

Dynamic kerbside management is crucial if urban authorities are to address increasingly chaotic situations caused by the gig economy and mobility innovation, says Adam Warnes at Passport.

Demand for the kerbside is growing and changing and it’s no surprise when you consider the recent innovations within the mobility industry. For starters, there are new modes of transport, including ride-shares, electric vehicles (EVs), dockless cycles, last-mile consolidations and autonomous vehicles (AVs). Secondly, the growing gig economy, new technology and changing citizen behaviours are impacting the way we make journeys, park cars and move around cities. While UK councils are well aware of the changes, they may not yet be equipped to adopt and embrace them to ultimately make their citizens’ lives better.

The pressure on Britain’s roads and transport systems has never been greater. On the consumer side, congestion is at an all-time high with drivers increasingly frustrated at the competition for kerbside space. On the government side, cities are on the backfoot, trying to react to a constantly evolving market (with light or outdated legislation) in conjunction with addressing global issues like air quality.

The mobility ecosystem is evolving – fast – and management of the kerbside needs to keep up. We’re seeing four distinct pressure points that councils currently face. Let’s take a look at these issues and their potential solutions in detail:

1. Everyday challenges 

Councils face funding challenges for parking and transport programmes, yet the cost of enforcement is on the rise. Meanwhile, a growing dissatisfaction around traffic management is eroding relationships between councils and citizens. According to a recent report by Integrated Transport Planning, the parking industry suffers because of an overwhelmingly negative focus on the cost and difficulties of parking – as well as the fines incurred as a result of non-compliant parking. To change this, greater openness and transparency are needed. Reasons why parking management matters need to be better explained and publicised; in the same vein, this also goes for how transport benefits the individual, local businesses and society more broadly, e.g. reducing congestion, improving road safety and air quality, ensuring accessibility to businesses and enhancing the local economy.

2. How best to utilise data 

The UK’s increasing population and congestion are putting more pressure on councils to find solutions that rely on access to data and systems that operate in real time. For example, being able to see parking transaction trends from parking machines, interactive voice response (IVR) and mobile applications in one place, while also managing parking rates in real time will become even more important to councils’ efforts to meet their goals and serve their citizens better. The issue is that the UK’s transport data tends to be siloed amongst numerous private and public organisations; while data sharing is what is needed, it is not the standard. The integration of data from multiple sources across private and public sectors can allow councils to better serve their citizens, while increasing revenue at the same time.

By adopting intelligent, real-time, cloud-based systems, local authorities can:

  • Gain unprecedented insights into citizen behaviour, and can better understand emerging patterns
  • Address congestion
  • Encourage loading and unloading at off-peak periods
  • Connect parking spaces that relay real-time information
  • Utilise mobile payments to remove the need for drivers to spend time finding and walking to payment machines
  • Introduce dynamic pricing for events or according to vehicle fuel types or emissions
  • Manage new modes of transport

3. Calls to improve air quality 

The environment is a huge concern within the UK, especially as London hit its 2018 annual pollution target less than a month into the year. Within the aforementioned study, 47% of drivers stated that pollution is a big problem and consistent clean air initiatives are required in UK towns and cities. Moving forward, it will be imperative for cities to more effectively manage kerbside space to support sustainable modes of transport such as walking, cycling, as well as ride-shares and public transit; this will be crucial to reduce pollution and improve air quality.

4. New technology-fuelled trends

How do councils partner with new modes of transport (e.g. ride-sharing, scooters and dockless cycles) that are more environmentally friendly to address congestion and air quality? The recent debate around the rise of new transport modes is yet another message to council officers that the mobility evolution is happening fast. As mentioned above, 27% of city councils cite that the rise in new transport modes is already causing problems. Let’s discuss some of the challenges that new modes of transport raise, including:

  • Adding to the growing number of mobility companies that cities have to manage.
  • Light and/or outdated legislation on top of an infrastructure that does not exist to support the use of new transport modes in a safe and managed way.
  • The impact that increased parking has on congestion – the cost of which to the London economy is estimated to be £6.2 billion per year. According to Transport for London data, cars are one of the chief causes of congestion in the capital, taking up 19% of street space but accounting for just 11% of journey kilometres.
  • The effects on first/last mile delivery options to better serve customers and help fleet operators.

Investment is required – both financially and in terms of policy or strategy focus. More effective transport management and dynamic kerbside management are key to address these increasingly chaotic situations. For example, cities can turn to platform-based innovation to manage the increased proliferation of mobility vendors, create a central place that connects parking meters and mobile apps for payment and enforcement and prepare cities for the emerging categories of transport such as scooters and micro-mobility.

In short, there’s never been a more challenging time to manage traffic in urban centres – so what steps need to be taken to speed up progress

Importance of connections

It is vital to connect councils, citizens and private operators. When it comes to assessing progress towards goals or implementing solutions, a closer relationship between citizens and councils would be profoundly valuable. Technology has a vital role to play here – helping to facilitate a better connection between city hall, private organisations and constituents. Whereas parking has historically been a fleeting experience, technology platforms are enabling councils to directly communicate with customers and nurture an ongoing relationship.

Build tailored tools for councils

Another potential solution is closer collaboration between traffic management system vendors and councils (as well as private parking management firms). By putting the needs of councils first and working closely alongside them, technology vendors can deliver traffic management solutions which are better suited for the councils’ unique needs. Ultimately, that ensures they’re more effective for local citizens, too. The key here is tailoring specific solutions to specific challenges, which can vary drastically from city to city. One council might be focused on meeting emissions-reduction goals, while another may be targeting operational efficiencies or seeking to improve the parking experience. That’s why it’s essential for technology vendors to provide councils with a customised offering rather than a ‘one size fits all’ model.

Find the right approach

Despite the comprehensive integrated platform involved in its delivery, dynamic kerbside management is a straightforward concept – nothing more than managing a council’s transport more consistently and conveniently. Whether with mobile payments for parking, mobile ticketing for transit, mobile cashless tolling, digital permits, parking enforcement or the insights gathered through the data available – dynamic kerbside management is about finding the right approach for an individual city or town and delivering it consistently.

Why it matters

Mobility is vital to the economy and inefficient mobility restricts growth. But, as well as that big economic impact, there are benefits that can be felt more immediately. By adopting this technology-driven model, councils, private parking firms, local businesses and citizens all stand to win. Local authorities, councils and private firms can make the most of their revenue opportunities, citizens enjoy cleaner air, less congestion and easier parking. And everyone gets to experience the rapid, exciting evolution of transport technology. The current traffic management system is fragmented; it is clear that the UK transport market needs to move towards dynamic kerbside management.

While this might sound like a vision of the future, as we’ve discovered – it’s already possible today if local authorities select the right partners to help them on their journey.

Parking: it’s not looking good

To get a better grasp on current ecosystem sentiment, Passport, in partnership with market research firm VIGA, commissioned two independent studies. One focused on 1,000 UK motorists while the other questioned over 50 council workers employed within parking departments. Here are some of their findings: 

  • Over half of councils (55%) are struggling with parking problem areas
  • More than a quarter of councils (27%) said that the rise in new transport modes is already causing problems 
  • 39% of council employees said street congestion was on the increase
  • Nearly one third (31%) of councils report an increase of illegal parking over the last year  
  • 84% of councils say that pollution has increased or stayed the same within the past year 
  • Over half of UK drivers (53%) reported spending up to 20 minutes trying to find parking in a central area